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Minnesota Vikings 2024 NFL offseason primer: Kirk Cousins or a fresh face at quarterback?

In Sports
February 23, 2024

Minnesota Vikings‘ 2023 season: 7-10, missed playoffs

The 2023 season did not go as hoped in Minnesota. After winning 13 games and the NFC North in 2022, the Vikings tied with the Chicago Bears for last place in the division a season later. Alongside regression from an overachieving 2022 campaign, quarterback play was at the center of Minnesota’s troubles.

Kirk Cousins suffered a torn Achilles in Week 8. The Vikings went on to use three more quarterbacks, none of whom were able to lift them to playoff contention. Now Cousins is scheduled to become a free agent, and the Vikings face a high-stakes offseason centered around the most important position in football.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

QB Kirk Cousins
EDGE Danielle Hunter
LB Jordan Hicks
LG Dalton Risner
WR K.J. Osborn

Who’s in/out? Cousins’ status is one of the biggest stories of the NFL offseason. He’s reportedly not eligible for the franchise tag because of language in his contract, meaning he’s on track to became a true unrestricted free agent. The Vikings would presumably prefer to keep him, but what cost are they willing to pay for a 35-year old coming off an Achilles injury? The Vikings likewise can’t use the franchise tag on Hunter, meaning that he very well could be on the way out. Nobody else slated for free agency looks like a lock to re-sign.

Will Kirk Cousins play again for the Vikings? (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Will Kirk Cousins play again for the Vikings? (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Key free agent needs

Defensive tackle

Why the holes? See above for the need at quarterback. Minnesota’s offseason priorities start at the position, and everything else false into place from there. But there is plenty of need elsewhere. The Vikings have a dearth of pass rushers outside of the potentially departing Hunter and struggled in coverage last season against opposing receivers. They need help across the board in pass defense.

Do they have the money?

They have some. Per Spotrac, the Vikings have $28 million in cap space, which ranks 15th in the NFL. That’s due in significant part to Cousins’ $20 million cap hit coming off the books. Cousins or not, they’ll need to pay somebody to play quarterback, meaning much of that space is accounted for barring Minnesota drafting and starting a rookie.

Potential notable cuts

S Harrison Smith
DE Dean Lowry

Why they might be gone: Smith’s likely departure is a tough one for Vikings fans, but his $19.2 million cap hit at 35 years old projects as too high for a team that needs to clear space. Lowry, meanwhile, missed half the season and failed to record a sack or a tackle for loss in the nine games he played. Minnesota could part with him and what it can salvage of his $4.5 million cap hit.

Draft picks

1st round: No. 11
2nd round: No. 42
4th round
4th round (from Lions)
5th round (from Browns)
5th round (from Chiefs)
6th round (from Panthers)
6th round (from Raiders)

Good draft fit
Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

Why him? At pick No. 11, the Vikings won’t be in position to draft Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or likely Jayden Daniels. Rolling the dice on an undersized McCarthy might be their best option at quarterback in the event Cousins is done in Minnesota.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

The best path forward in both fantasy and reality is perfectly clear: Kirk Cousins gets re-signed, Justin Jefferson extended and the backfield upgraded from a deep free-agent class. In case you’d forgotten, Cousins was having an absolutely massive year statistically prior to his injury, plus he’d just beaten the Niners and Packers in consecutive weeks. He was on pace to challenge for a 5,000-yard season with 35 or more touchdown passes. For eight games, he was one of the right answers in fantasy football. Let’s run it back. — Andy Behrens

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